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  • Mon, 16 Apr 2018 18:25

In her first on-court appearance since Rio, Li Xuerui made the Lingshui China Masters her first title in nearly 2 years.

Photos: Badmintonphoto (archives)

Last year saw the return to the court of Kento Momota and the former world #2 took both a and Gold title last autumn.  China’s former world #1 Li Xuerui (pictured) left the scene later but she was in fact gone for much longer, spending over a year and a half away from international badminton.

Ever since her injury in the semi-finals of the Rio Olympics, headlines have abounded about China’s dearth of major titles in a discipline they once dominated.  In fact, Japan’s major event title drought in men’s singles was worse, only ending when Momota was beaten by a compatriot at last year’s Canada Open.  However, clearly China had much farther to fall than Japan, whose only big podium finishes were perpetrated by Momota.

It did look as if He Bingjiao would pick up the slack for China, as she swooped in after Li’s injury and picked up two titles and a Grand Prix Gold in 2016 post-Rio.  However, Chinese shuttlers were not only shut out of the titles in 2017 but managed just two women’s singles finalists in the top echelon in 2017, with 3 shuttlers winning Grand Prix Gold titles.  So far in 2018, Chen Yufei’s runner-up finish is the only finals appearance for China in the new , which had had 8 instalments (including the BWF [non-‘World’] Tour in Orleans).

Li Xuerui accomplished China’s first podium-topping performance in women’s singles so far this year.  She marched through a field of youngsters and wrapped it up by taking down first-time major event finalist Kim Ga Eun of Korea in three games.  It was Li’s first title since she won the plain-jane China Masters in the spring of 2016, almost exactly 2 years ago.

In men’s singles, it was Chinese Taipei’s Lin Yu Hsien (pictured) ending a nearly six-year wait for a return to a major event final.  He lost the 2012 Canada Open final to compatriot Chou Tien Chen but this time he bounced back from dropping the opening game to win two convincing games, wresting the title from Lu Guangzu and preventing a Chinese sweep.

In men’s doubles, the Asian Junior Champions from the last two years met in the final to determine who would walk away with their first major senior title.  Han Chengkai and Zhou Haodong, who also took the World Junior title in 2016, a few months after reaching the first Grand Prix Gold final of their career, made good this time, beating the teenaged Di Zijian and Wang Chang in three close games.

Li Yinhui won her last major women’s doubles title in her first tournament together with Huang Dongping, the newest world #1, in mixed doubles.  On this occasion, Du Yue enabled Li to pick up her second title and it was at the expense of none other than Huang.  The veteran, now teamed up with 18-year-old Li Wenmei, was unable to match her younger team-mates and went down in straight games.

Liu Xuanxuan (pictured) is perhaps best known for being Li Yinhui’s replacement (after Li herself replaced the great Zhao Yunlei) as partner to former Olympic champion Zhang Nan.  This past weekend in Lingshui, Liu teamed up with Guo Xinwa and took down top seeds Ronald and Annisa Saufika in three games.

The Indonesians did manage to dominate the second game against the brand-new pairing opposite but they had to settle for silver as they prepare to head south to defend their New Zealand Open title.  In Auckland, they will again have to face a brand new combination in the first round, this next one involving former world #1 Kim Ha Na.

Final results
XD:  Guo Xinwa / Liu Xuanxuan (CHN) beat Ronald / Annisa Saufika (INA) [1]  21-17, 7-21, 21-19
WS:  Li Xuerui (CHN) beat Kim Ga Eun (KOR)            16-21, 21-16, 21-18
MS:  Lin Yu Hsien (TPE) beat Lu Guangzu (CHN)        12-21, 21-12, 21-14
WD:  Du Yue / Li Yinhui (CHN) [3] beat Huang Dongping / Li Wenmei (CHN)  21-16, 21-17
MD:  Han Chengkai / Zhou Haodong (CHN) [1] beat Di Zijian / Wang Chang (CHN)  19-21, 21-17, 21-16

Click here for complete results

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